Sometimes a game crosses your desk that leaves you a little confused and wondering what happened in development. Dungeonoid 2 is such a game for me. It has some fun, fresh ideas, but the way these are brought to life left me scratching my head and at times shouting at the screen in frustration.
The combination of brick busting gameplay with RPG and adventuring elements is a relatively unexplored niche genre. For shame really, as I believe there’s some great potential still. So I was happy to see Dungeonoid 2 would tap into this idea and deliver such an experience.
Brick busting adventure
The basic Arkanoid kind of gameplay is here. You control a paddle and keep a ball in play, sending it flying into bricks and baddies. In addition, the ball also has a spin attack on a small cooldown to help hit stuff just out of reach, which can be quite satisfying and a fine addition to the formula. Whist cleaning up the field, destroyed terrain or enemies may drop some items that can either help or hinder you.
Something cool is that the levels have a feeling of progression. At certain points you’ll need to complete a small challenge before you can progress further, such as hitting a switch to open a gate or get rid of all the bricks or enemies. But most of the time you are moving through a level; the field is constantly changing and for some tricky treasures you’ll need to act quickly, before they get scrolled off screen.
So levels are much larger than the usual single screen affair and each takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. There’s some nice variety in environments and each has some engaging set pieces and interesting boss fights. Unfortunately, there’s only 6 levels total, which makes the game feel way too light on content.
Limited replay value
There is some replay value, as some of the challenges and hidden treasures can be quite tricky to obtain, or even notice. So it may take some passes to collect everything and this is beneficial, as it can lead to some permanent upgrades like extra lives, speed or power.
There are four different heroes to choose from with slightly varied statistics, though the biggest difference comes in the form of their special attack. This needs to be charged through powerups, but once activated can usually clear the screen quite effectively in some way. The priest stands out a bit, as apart from a big attack, he also summons a permanent shield at the bottom of the screen that can take three hits, which feels hugely overpowered compared to the other characters.
Where’d my ball go?
You can use some unfair advantages though, as the game can be very frustrating. It’s honestly not too hard, the ball will never pick up crazy speeds, but the design gets in the way of the action. While the levels look pretty good, it can obscure the ball too easily. Sometimes the ball or even the paddle just disappear completely behind foreground objects or UI elements and this has caused me plenty of lives.
It’s a shame, as this turns some of the better ideas totally against the game, purely because of some weird design choices that get in the way of enjoying the game. Another example would be the bullets enemies shoot at you. They can’t actually hurt you, but they will cause status ailments. These debuffs are a fine idea, but without a countdown to know when they cease, they become extremely annoying, especially the confuse one which reverses your controls.
The ball physics are also fairly limited, making it a bit tricky to get the ball to go where you want exactly and there’s even a feature to summon the ball back to the paddle if it hasn’t touched it for at least 15 second. Seeing that I’ve het multiple times where the ball would just get stuck bouncing back and forth horizontally, this is a much needed feature indeed. Levels do have a time limit, so if the ball decides to dilly-dally on the field it can be very annoying.
Questionable design in general
Something else that annoys me quite a bit, is the total lack of mouse support on the Steam version. This seems such a given, but you’ll have to rely on either a controller or the keyboard and you cannot change key bindings. Options in general are absent, literally the only thing you can change, is disable the music, nothing else. There are also plenty of textual errors throughout the in game manual. This all makes the game feel very unpolished.
After completing the game once, which takes less than 2 hours, you unlock rush mode as the only alternate mode. Unfortunately, it’s basically the exact same game, with the exception that you can submit your score afterwards. For some reason the permanent upgrades are active in this mode as well, which really lowers the challenge considerably and no doubt will make it an absolute must to hunt them down in order to compete. In the story mode you can choose which level to play, in rush you must play them in sequence starting from the first level.
Check out Retrolike.net’s other PC Steam reviews.
I have not played the first Dungeonoid, but looking at it makes me feel this is a huge step back. Yes, it looks nicer, but these types of games are designed so they are easy to follow for a reason. The first game seems to take a much more simpler approach for the presentation. In this sequel the graphics feel overengineered and make it hard to enjoy the actual refreshing parts of the game fully.
- Sense of fluid movement through levels
- Some fun collectables to hunt for
- Easy to lose track of ball and paddle
- Next to no options or customization
- Very light on content